The Secret Ingredient Missing From Every Conversation

That’s the most liberating, wonderful thing in the world, when you openly admit you’re an ass. It’s wonderful. When people tell me, “You’re wrong.” I say, “What can you expect of an ass?”

S.J. ANTHONY DE MELLO – SOURCE: AWARENESS

The vast majority of conversations consist of two people trying to have their egos validated by proving that one is right and the other is wrong. Often both will agree but even then, in most cases, what they agree is that others are wrong and they are right. 

This is a special, saucy kind of conversation where two individuals stroke each other’s egos instead of their own. “Oh stop it.” “No you stop it.” “Reowww!”

It’s all based on the ego’s insatiable appetite to be right. To try to make sense of a world it can’t possibly make sense of. To place everything into neat little boxes. So we can get a tick with an A+ next to it. 

“Well done Timmy you passed the test! You’re 100 percent right! Any other option would have been wrong but you got it right! This is exactly how the world works!”

The problem is so many of us have been raised to look at the world through this black and white lens where we’re taught that right equals good. Right equals success. Right equals smart and capable. Whereas wrong equals failure. Wrong equals incapable. Wrong equals dumb.

It’s this kind of thinking that has made being wrong so difficult for so many of us. 

It either threatens our identity as being smart and capable or confirms it as being dumb and incapable. In both cases we find being wrong so incredibly painful we avoid putting ourselves out there at all costs.

The question is how do we protect ourselves against this form of thinking? How do we protect against having a fixed mindset?

Well one way is to consider that every single thought you’ve ever had, every thought that anyone has ever had, is in some way, shape or form, wrong. To consider that there is no black or white, only grey. 

If you look deeply enough you’ll see this is true. That we are almost always wrong in someway, shape or form. This argument itself can be picked apart on so many levels. 

The reason is there is no possible way you, or anyone else, can know everything there is to know about anything. The world is simply too complex.

The sooner we can see how deeply flawed the ways in which we think are, the sooner we can let go of our limiting beliefs and more forward to slightly less limiting beliefs.

Equally the sooner we can get to grips with the idea we know next to nothing – the more comfortable we can become in not knowing. This actually, paradoxically, promotes curiosity and learning.  

It does this by helping us to understand that there is always something to learn. Always some area in which we can grow and get better. Equally it keeps our egos from feeling threatened by the idea that it’s wrong. As a result we become less afraid to learn and ask questions. We become less afraid to put our hands up and ask stupid questions. 

This way of thinking promotes a growth mindset.

So next time you have a conversation with someone I suggest dropping all notions of, or attempts at, being right. Instead I invite you consider simply trying to be a little less wrong than you already are. Not only will this put you in a willing mindset to learn, it will allow you take whatever someone else has to say with a huge pinch of salt.

Thanks again for reading everyone. I’m curious what tactics you might have for cultivating a growth mindset? How do you keep an open mind? As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions. I will always take it with a pinch of salt.

***

You can visit AP2’s personal blog here at: https://clear-air-turbulence.com


66 thoughts on “The Secret Ingredient Missing From Every Conversation

    1. It’s good to have a debate – to argue your side but it’s equally important to listen to the other side as well. To really consider their point of view. Often I think our desire to be right gets in the way of this. Thanks for your comment. 🙏

  1. You’re absolutely right buddy…everyone wants to make themselves seem superior infront of other people…. hope to see more blogs from you like this one… lots of love.. 😊

    1. Thanks Jay for your kind words and the follow – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’ll be sure to check you your blog. Wishing you well, AP2 🙏

  2. Agreed all round. I have mostly been wrong in my life. Equally however I have rarely tried to convince anyone I was right. These days I haven’t a clue about anything except my own feelings and experiences. That will have to suffice for me.

    1. Ha yes – I think people don’t up from down anymore! The age of disinformation and endless conspiracy theories probably takes not trying to be right a bit too far! Trusting your own intuition is wise. Thanks for your comment Anthony – wishing you well 🙏

    1. Well I should follow that up by saying, after I finish college, quite a few years ago now, I remember thinking: I don’t know a damn thing!! Some people would ask me certain things – I would often respond with “I don’t know…”

      1. Great points – thank you for raising them. We don’t even know definitively what reality is. There’s no way to determine whether anything exists outside of our own consciousness – reality might just be one big dream for all we “know.” Definitely a good reason to keep an open mind.

        Certainly it seems the more we do know the more we become aware of just how little any of us ever can know. I don’t know is a far better answer than pretending to know in my book. Much better that we seek to learn rather than hide behind our ego.

        Thank you so much for your comments. Wishing you well 🙏

      2. I actually got a fair amount of crap for saying “I don’t know” to things so often. I do it at work too now cuz I worked in a couple of different departments for a particular government agency and the rules and different departments changed so what I thought “I knew” is applied or interpreted differently. Actually, if you want to feel like you know nothing at all, work for a government agency, and try to use some forms of logic to learn your job. Lol. It literally hurt my head in the first year.

      3. The same things happens in my profession as a pilot. If I don’t know something then some captains will give you a hard time. Certainly during my training it was expected that I know everything. Each flight felt more like a test than training. It’s calmed down since my early years. The times have changed as they realised this kind of negative training was rather stressful!
        Yes they change things all the time in aviation as well so we have to be up to date with our knowledge! Still if you don’t know you don’t know. In my profession pretending to know when you don’t can be dangerous. Thanks again for all your comments. 🙏

      4. Sounds like you’ve got a challenging job for sure! I agree & you’re completely right… It would be dangerous if you were wrong about something and pretended you knew. although I don’t do it very often, I enjoy flying but not *going through the airports* so much these days😏. my grandfather actually had a private pilot’s license, I think he got right after world war II.

      5. That’s cool your grandpa was a pilot. There were many of them following the Second World War. The generation after him saw the golden age of aviation in my eyes. Fast forward to today… It’s been one of the most difficult year for aviation. I’m one of the lucky pilots who still has a job (for now). Going through airports is a miserable experience. I get tested for COVID every time I travel now. My layovers are confined to the hotel room! I pine for some form of normality to return.

  3. This sounds a lot like a question I asked last week about “being the bigger person” and good reasons to do so (mostly bad ones). I was a professional doormat who caved if the argument was getting too loud or too curse-heavy. I would just “agree to disagree” and walk away or just stop arguing and they’d get this satisfied look on their face like they won. I didn’t agree, but when someone else wants to win at all costs, it’s beating a dead horse after a while, especially if you’ve been subtly trained to not correct your elders or that kids are supposed to be quiet in adult conversations (even when you’re a teenager, you’re still supposed to be at the kiddie table, I guess).

    I’ve been right and I’ve been wrong, and I’ve been so used to “taking one for the team” and just stopping that it always seems that because I stopped fighting I must be wrong. No, I just stopped fighting. I’m sure there are things I’ve been wrong about. But in an argument or political discussion, it’s about outlasting the other person, right or wrong. And I don’t believe there are two equal and opposing sides in everything, which means there isn’t a level playing field to work from. It used to be “he who shouts loudest has lost,” because they’re becoming out of control. Now it’s turned into whoever can shout the most is the winner because they wouldn’t risk looking like a fool shouting something that’s wrong so publicly, right? Tell that to the “alternative facts” crowd.

    My own tendency to feel I’m right but try to stop arguing has taken a toll on my relationship with my mother. We don’t see eye to eye anymore, but then again, she wouldn’t know that until this election cycle because I would stop contributing to the “discussion” (3 hour monologues with my head nodding to stop her is more accurate) and just move on. We haven’t spoken since about July, I think. She grew less interested in talking when she realized I wasn’t just going to agree with her anymore, and seemed dumbfounded when I argued back for once (kinda had to when she attacked my area of expertise with some conspiracy talking point and went full throttle without listening to me).

    I was driven to tears and tried to get off the phone, but she wouldn’t let go and we were screaming at each other about who knows what. My friend thought I was mad afterward because I was trying to change her. It wasn’t that. I knew I couldn’t change her mind and that wasn’t the point. I was hoping that she would actually listen and we could discuss for once, but she doubled down and went for the kill instead.

    Now, I don’t care if it makes me look weak anymore; I’ll walk away and say “nope, I’m not feeding your ego today. Save it for someone else.” The anger I felt from that last confrontation is still as sharp today, and I won’t let myself get in that position again. We’re all right and wrong at times, and it depends on a thousand factors, like knowledge base, upbringing, age, life experience, news sources and updates, etc. And with COVID and the hoaxers and all that going on… yeah, I’m not in the mood to argue with someone who could spit in my face just to get me to leave and they can win by default.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m sorry to hear about your relationship with your mother.

      It’s tricky when we disagree about important matters that affect all of us – esp during this age of rampant disinformation and smear campaigns. We seem unable to determine up from down anymore. I’ve had many disturbing conversations with friends who have bought into certain conspiracy theories. More and more so in recent years. We should be debating the details about what to do not debating what reality actually is. Alas, the ego is so desperate to be heard it doesn’t stop to listen. We form a narrative and then feed it continuously- this becomes our reality. At the same time it removes us from it.

      Ultimately I think it’s important we try to have a civil conversation with the other side – however hard it is or futile it feels. Not because you will change their minds but you might at least plant the seed. And you will at least learn something yourself. Who knows maybe years later they will come to see the truth in it. We desperately need to start bridging the divide or I fear it may get too big.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts friend. I really appreciate the dialogue and thank you for making me think. I wish you well and hope you find some peace in your relationship 🙏

      1. You hit it on the head about how the biggest issues seem to be that we can’t even agree about the reality of the situation right now. That’s what scares me the most.

      2. It should scare all of us. This has been happening for years. I think this year has really put a spotlight on the issue and shown us why protecting the truth must be a priority going forward if we want to protect our freedoms and democracy. That at least is a good thing. Thanks friend 🙏

    1. Yes me too – I’m beginning to learn the art and value to listening. Most people are very good at having an opinion. Far less are truly good listeners. Thank you for your comment 🙏

  4. AP, I think it is so important to admit it when we are wrong. I think it is also important to be able to ask questions without fear of appearing stupid. Ego can keep us in ignorance. Thanks for the meaningful post! 🙂

    1. Absolutely agreed. I believe our pride/our fear of shame gets in the way. Putting up our hand and saying “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong” or “I don’t know” takes a huge amount of courage. It’s something we could all do a great deal more to commend in today’s society.

      Thank you for all your support Cheryl. It doesn’t go unnoticed. You’re a shining light in the WordPress community. I’m glad you found value in my words. Wishing you well 🙏

  5. Great post, AP! I met someone recently who said “There is so much more to life than the limited perspective that things must be black or white. I want to embrace the grey and all the other colors of life.”
    And when you think about it, life is better in color, isn’t it?

  6. YES! The whole kaleidoscope! That’s a perfect analogy. With each turn of the kaleidoscope a new color, a new view appears. When we stay curious and open to learning, our view can change. Our perspective changes. We see new things. I love that!❤️

  7. What an important reminder, my friend. I think that is one of the many curses of adulthood: Know-it-All Syndrome. When really, not one of us knows everything. I try to remind myself that humility is much more attractive than certitude. It’s also how we grow as people, as humans, and as a species. As a teacher, I want to encourage research, credible sources, and logic and reason in all that we do and stand for. May we continue to engage in respectful and open-minded dialogue with one another, and embrace the process of learning. Thanks for this thought-provoking post, AP2!🕊

    1. Thanks SnapDragon. I find I get sucked into the debate sometimes where I try hard to prove my point. Then I take a breathe and think why do I need to have my ego validated so badly? What does it matter? Say your peace, consider the other side and remain civil. Above all else listen. It’s an art. It requires practise. I’m still learning. Thank you for the support snapdragon. I really appreciate it 🙏

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. I tend to think our desperate need for validation often blinds us – prevents from keeping an open mind which is crucial for learning.

  8. I always thought I am a good mediator and acknowledge different opinions. But reading this made me think maybe I am sometimes too agreeable, which in a way feeds my ego of validating myself.

    1. It’s a very good point you bring up Betul. I have struggled with the idea of being honesty versus being kind – it’s something I want to write about a later date. I think many of us are afraid to speak up for fear of being perceived as not a kind or good person. Staying silent or agreeing so we don’t have to have a difficult conversation – although we may appear kinder from that persons perspective – is not necessarily the kinder thing to do. Ultimately it’s a balance – the need to be honest but to deliver that honesty as compassionately as you can. I’ve been trying harder to be honest this year and speak my mind. My ego still struggles with it but I believe I’m starting to gain confidence. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Betul – wishing you well 🙏

      1. I agree to all of that. Now I am trying to balance it as much as I can. I am not that agreeable anymore but I also don’t disagree with everything. That is also annoying.

  9. I am left handed. That was considered wrong. I used to get the ruler alot. Grandad had his hand tied behind his back cause left is wrong. Black and white becomes grey but it takes time. Great blog.

    1. You’re not wrong. It takes time to move away from black and white thinking. Just like it’s taken a long time to move away from very outdated beliefs perpetuates by society about what a man or a women should be. Thank you for your comments 🙏

  10. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” —Stephen R. Covey
    A lot of times we listen to someone to respond to them not to understand. We think generating replies shows how smart we are and that we’re listening. But in reality, smart people try to understand the speaker and use the knowledge.

    1. That’s a great quote and well said. Trying to understand is exactly what increases our intelligence. The art of listening is very much about putting yourself in the other persons shoes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts/the quote 🙏

  11. Listening is a forgotten art in this age of ego and “Please hear me out!” Often, when speaking with someone, I find myself planning my next retort rather than hearing what they have to say. Having a self-deprecating sense of humor is a sure sign of mental health. The following is a very apropos TED Talk:

    1. Hey Troy – thanks for the link. I’ll give it watch later. I’m no different. I often look back at a conversation and wonder why I felt the need for validation. Is it hardwired? From an evolutionary perspective – to be accepted as part of the tribe? Or is it because we didn’t get the attention we needed as children. When our emotions, thoughts and dreams were trivialised by parents who weren’t entirely present? 🤔

  12. “So next time you have a conversation with someone I suggest dropping all notions of, or attempts at, being right. Instead I invite you consider simply trying to be a little less wrong than you already are. Not only will this put you in a willing mindset to learn, it will allow you take whatever someone else has to say with a huge pinch of salt.”
    In addition, also: drop all notions of or attempts at being wrong. It is no contest
    Why does it matter to any of us to be right (as opposed to wrong)? If you know what you know, if you know what you can, what is the importance? Why engage into right-wrong pingpong?

    This is a great thing you dissect here 🙂
    Coaching people ( by teaching body-mechanics in tai chi or mind-mechanics in mindset-coaching) translates in practice that there is nothing already prepared to say or do. Any skills and knowledge used are present to adapt to the moment and person. It is my job to find the student or client be important, not myself or what I have to say/ what I know/ what I am skilled in. You are important.
    I have practiced this shift in attitude first with my family, my parents and friends, and all of the relationships improved significantly (even where I did not see a need or space for improvement). And I am practicing it right now as I type. How many times did I use “I” or “me”…? Have to edit this text again 😉

    The “skill” starts with entering a contact/ conversation with a different attitude, different mindset (the other one matters) that leads to being sincerely curious about what the other person knows, wants or can do both within body as within mind-mechanics frame. This is mutual “learning opportunity”! I could go on for another hour….
    Secret ingredients you are asking for in the title: drop the self- importance, practice wu-chi (receptiveness/ emptiness etc), do not take things (especially yourself) too seriously, have fun and a pinch of salt in every conversation 🙂

    1. Great point. Forget both wrong and right. The art of listening is much more important than the art of persuasion. People just want to be heard at the end of the day. Often the opinions are of no consequence. And absolutely yes to never taking ourselves too seriously! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Wishing you well 🙏

  13. “People just want to be heard in the end of the day…” exactly!
    At risk of engaging into a paradox here, and hoping it will only contribute to better understanding, acceptance and inner+ interpersonal peace: opinions often lead to polarization, whether the parties involved agree or disagree. When a person is able to grasp this (opinion: mine, yours, theirs…) and make space for SILENCE (that gives space to the other person and to you), then we can keep on the track. Then we are quieter on the inside, smile on the outside and everything seems to go easier for all of the involved.
    Thank you for the subject of “secret ingredients” and thank you for taking time to read and respond 🙂

  14. A very important concept! This reminds me of philosophy and the notion of questioning our beliefs. There’s always a way to sharpen our thoughts.

    1. Absolutely – very much about questioning our beliefs. I think we should do so regularly – that this is a healthy thing to do. Thank for sharing your thoughts 🙏

  15. Thank you for sharing these words. Much needed in a time where so many desperately want to be “right”.

    Ultimate frisbee is a self refereed sport. Each player is responsible for their own conduct and making a call when they thing an infringement had been occurred. I’ve learned, and found from personal experience too, the best way to encourage someone to examine their perspective and change their mind is to listen. It is a very counter-intuitive idea that to convince someone of something the best plan is to listen.

    As you say we always have more to learn; in every situation we are a teacher and a learner.

    Thanks again for the encouragement to share. 😊

    1. Excellent point Hamish. Your thought reminds of therapy. The way a client gains the insight he or she was seeking by themselves. It’s simply a byproduct of having someone who really listens/ pays attention. Thanks Hamish. 🙏

  16. hey writer the line from your content ‘[The sooner we can see how deeply flawed the ways in which we think are, the sooner we can let go of our limiting beliefs and more forward to slightly less limiting beliefs.] is just a caffeine of today’s morning. With almonds I am taking these good read of today’s morning

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